After completing my first Daring Baker's challenge last month, and being a bit disappointed about the results, I was anxious for the unveiling of this month's challenge.
The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
I put off completing this challenge for a few weeks for a variety of reasons. Mostly, my time is a wee bit limited nowadays. With no time, I couldn't research traditional British puddings, compare recipes or brainstorm flavor combinations.
Secondly, I admit, I was initially not very excited about the challenge. After all, the host described these puddings as "homely". Also, I had absolutely no idea how this "pudding" would taste.
Lastly, the less than plentiful crop of early spring fruits was creating a bit of an obstacle. For the first few weeks in spring, the farmer's market had only potatoes and onions.
But, sometimes, procrastination does pay off. I put this challenge off long enough to be greeted by the bright red stalks of fresh rhubarb. Funny how just the sight of this fruit seems to signal an end to the long winter and gesture in the warmer, happier days of spring.
I purchased just two stalks, as rhubarb is a bit on the expensive side, enough to be poached for the two individual puddings I had decided to create.
I lightly poached the rhubarb in a combination of water, blood orange juice, vanilla and honey. While the poached rhubarb was cooling, I reduced the poaching liquid to the most beautiful, shiny red glaze I had ever seen. There was just enough glaze to be drizzled over the dessert as the final, sweet touch.
As the top layer of the steamed pudding, I incorporated a thin crumb layer, just to add a little extra sweetness to the rhubarb.
Finally, it was time to venture into unmarked territory. It was time to actually create and steam the pudding.
Confession: I whimped out. I did not use suet. I used butter instead. But, I promise you - it will be okay. Butter makes everything better!
Using a small, mesh sieve to rest the pudding on, I could only fit one individual springform pan in the pot. I brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat at let it do it's thing.
I snuck a peek here and there. But nothing seemed to be happening. Just a lot of steam and gurgling.
Most recipes instructed a steaming time of at least two hours, but for a full-sized pudding. So, I checked mine after an hour. I inserted my little cake tester and it emerged with just a few stray crumbs. Time was up!
I might have forgotten I used leavener in the recipe. I might have filled the batter all the way to the top of the pan on accident. But I admit nothing.
It was an easy enough fix after all.
See? Now I had a flat bottom for the steamed pudding and I could taste just a little piece.
It was heavenly. Amazing. The most moist, creamy cake I had ever eaten with a deep, yet light flavor.
I added the cooled, poached rhubarb - now a bright, beautiful pink hue - on top of the creamy, crumb layer and drizzled the reduced poaching liquid over the pudding.
I served the steamed pudding with homemade frozen yogurt, although I think it would have been even better with a tart, lemon sorbet instead.
This month's challenge was a major success on many levels. The visual result was exactly what I had envisioned when I picked up that first stalk of fresh rhubarb. The taste far exceeded my expectations and I created a recipe which I will keep in my repertoire for years to come.
The success of this challenge reminded me how important it is to continally expand your skills, even if you are not overcome with enthusaism at first glace. Thinking about how you can turn a recipe into your own, into a recipe that you are truly proud of, takes time, energy and patience.
But aren't those successes, the ones we didn't see coming, the sweetest?